The Boy Redefining The Soul in Your Shoes.

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

The shoeshining business hasn’t faded away just yet. No sir! An 'old-at-heart' 23-year-old bloke is keeping the tradition alive. Soul Boy.

Going simply by ‘Soul Boy Shoeshine’ on Instagram Declan polishes boots for a living. There’s something to be said about a good shoeshine. A lot of my grandparents would talk about the quality of a pair of traditional brogue shoes. That’s certainly passed through to me. You really cannot beat a good brogue or a dashing pair of Doc Martens, perhaps a loafer? Why the heck not!? But to add to all of this, a good ol’ shoeshine.

“23 with the head of a 50-year-old” Declan “provide the service of cleaning, renovating and shining shoes and boots.” It’s shinning his own shoes that drove Declan into starting his own business. “I’ve never left the house without shinning my shoes, and it hit me that if I love shinning my own shoes why couldn’t I make something out of it where I shine other people’s shoes.” But one of the main reasons was busking on the streets. Having played guitar, “my girlfriend asked me would I ever go busking in the streets, I said no it’s not really for me... I wouldn’t mind going out and shinning people’s shoes though!” So, at “Christmas my girlfriend had one last present for me which was the shoeshine chair. A month or two after Christmas she says to me you need to go out and do it because if you don’t do it now you never will. She made me my first sign and sent me on my way, in the same day I got offered to shine shoes at doc martens Southampton!”

Shining shoes isn’t as easy as it seems. Declan somehow manages to perfect the shine so well that you can in fact see your reflection. No joke. It was really through his “older mates” most of whom are “mostly skinheads, suedheads and scooterist so I’ve always asked, ‘how do you get yours to be that shinny?’ and always got told use this use that.” And with that “basic knowledge of shinning, I started shinning outside and sometimes inside doc martens, I made a great friend called Joe whose business is called Steelcity shoeshine. He’s taught me tricks and tips on how mirror shine and get the leather to work with ya.”

Declan has an amazing sense of style; it acts as a connection to a lot of his customers. And “clothes can act as a statement! Clothes make you move and position yourself in different ways.” Opting for a classic suedehead style, a pair of dark blue denim jeans with a perfect turn-up. Paired with, a check short sleeve shirt and braces to match, not forgetting the all-important glistening boots. But it’s more than just having a cool look, “I’ve always said Anyone can wear a suit but it’s how you wear it that makes you stand out from other people.”

Music and fashion as have been said before, go hand in hand. Being a musician, he “listen to a lot of stuff.” The real stand-out genres, “which really outline what I’m about is reggae music, ska, northern soul, Motown, R&B and rock n roll!” Particularly when Declan was a kid, “I was a huge fan of Elvis and still am to this day, that striking figure of a man that once you’ve seen him you can’t get him out of your head. And you can’t help but think ‘what a dresser’ or ‘what a cool guy’.” You can see that in the way Declan dresses. A backbone of soul in style and music. An underground look you have to be part of. Know the music to understand the look. A community. And that feel of Elvis has “stuck with me always and I have tried to maybe replicate in my own style.”

Fashion is one big movement. Trying to find your style and what suits you and what you’re about. “It’s been a big progression over the years, I was a mod for a good few years but then developed over time into the boot boy suede head style. I stick to the main roots of it mostly, but I do add my own stamp to it!” Being able to stick to the original ethos behind the look whilst adding your own personality is great. And that shines through with Soul Boy. Styles are faster now than they were in the 60s through to 90s, which were full of subcultures. “There’s loads of different styles coming out every day and every month, but they don’t link to anything now a days! There’s no names there’s no culture behind it and that’s not me shaming it at all but I just wish there was a reason to the rhyme.”

Outside of shining shoes, Declan plays guitar. Before lockdown as Declan was “gigging a lot of the time” he “wouldn’t get many chances to go see a band.” So, it was mainly “local bands”. However, when he did, “I’d make sure it was a band I could dance to! Bands like double barrel, Decatonics!” Like music and fashion, “I’ve just never liked anything current. As a young kid all my friends listened to the new thing out or dressed in the latest fashions, I was just born in the wrong era.”

There’s a lot more that goes into shoe-shining than you might realise. For one, “Make sure you care for the leather first! I’ve always said it’s like working with skin, to get the best out of it you’ve got to use the best products and do the best techniques to get the most out of it!” That staple shine is what it’s all about, “the reason I get such a high shine out of the shoe is because I start from scratch and use creams that’s care and renovate the leather. As well as add colour back into them and then use polishes with high concentration of waxes and with the right techniques you get the best results.” So, there you have it, but don’t go thinking you can do it yourself now!

Having started in Doc martens, “I’ve had a lot of the staff and ex staff get their shoes and boots shined by me.” And “It’s always a pleasure because that to me was where I started and to think that the people that work there walk on to the shop floor wearing the boots, I’ve polished really makes me happy!” It’s these roots that has obviously stuck with Declan and pushed him to do more. Especially with lockdown, it’s helped in lots of ways because it’s taught me to up my game when it comes to social media. I’m forever adding new content on my Facebook and Instagram now, whether is my own collection I’m shinning or customers, the before and after shots are the big winners on my page.

Having convinced you of the need to get your boots and shoes polished, head over to Declan’s page and find out more.

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